By Dave DeGeorge, Vice President, MetLife
Today, three in four U.S. employees don’t feel financially secure,[i] and the average financially stressed employee spends 3 hours or more each week dealing with personal finances during working hours.[ii] Despite a recovering economy, employees’ struggles with money are steadily increasing.
Although employers are not required to intervene in matters of personal finances, 47% of employers of all sizes,[iii] and 97% of large employers,[iv] say they feel somewhat responsible for helping employees address their financial challenges. This sense of responsibility is driving financial wellness to become a growing business imperative for many organizations, with its significance up sharply from 49% in 2015[v] to 60% in 2017,[vi] according to Aon Hewitt (now Alight Solutions).
Supporting workplace financial wellness is not just beneficial for employees, it is also critical for any business concerned about the negative impact of employees’ personal financial problems on corporate performance—especially considering that the average 1,000-employee company experiences a loss in excess of $5.7 million each year due to employees’ stress-related issues.[vii] Employers, who spent nearly $8 billion in 2016 on corporate wellness programs,[viii] expect an increasing proportion to be allocated toward helping employees achieve financial wellness in the future.
Four Steps for Creating a Financial Wellness Program
A successful workplace financial wellness program takes a holistic approach and consists of four key steps.
Step 1 – Understand Employee Needs: The first step in developing a workplace financial wellness program is to understand your employees’ needs. By taking workers’ fiscal temperature, human resource leaders will be in a strong position to identify employees’ financial pain points; gather the data required to support a compelling business case to the C-suite; and, establish the financial wellness program’s objectives, which could include, as examples, increased productivity, fewer absences, talent retention and timely retirement exits.
A financial wellness needs assessment should include a review of the current demographic make-up of your workforce to ensure you have an accurate picture of the various cohorts by age, generation, life stage, marital status, family structure, income and financial circumstances. Next, review all available data on your existing benefit plans. For example, examining retirement plan data, such as contribution rates, average balances and loan frequency/amounts, can provide important clues into the financial health of your workforce. Similarly, reviewing coverage amounts may reveal whether workers are adequately protected with life and disability insurance. Tools such as surveys and focus groups may also provide important insight into workers’ financial behaviors, attitudes and knowledge about basic money management (e.g., budgeting, managing credit cards and other debt), investing principles, retirement savings, and more advanced topics, such as the time value of money, the benefits of compounding and the effects of inflation.
Step 2 – Tailor the Program: Customizing financial wellness across today’s diverse workforce is essential for ensuring the program drives the desired outcomes. Since workplace benefits form the foundation of most workers’ financial safety nets, the most effective workplace financial wellness programs place employer-provided benefits at the nexus of the program. By integrating into the financial wellness program information about the company’s full complement of employee and retirement benefits, workers are able to maximize the value of those benefits with the knowledge that the programs have been designed to meet their personal financial circumstances, and the confidence that their employer has endorsed the offerings after careful due diligence.
Once you have decided how you want to structure your company’s financial wellness program, identify a short list of thoroughly vetted potential vendor partners with a demonstrated track record in the financial wellness space. Unfortunately, there are very few off-the-shelf financial wellness platforms today that adequately address the full spectrum of all employees’ financial needs. Instead, many employers – particularly large employers – are likely contemplating how best to work with an employee benefits provider or consultant to design a program customized to the unique needs of their workforce. You will likely want to identify a partner that offers multi-channel capabilities that can support all aspects of financial wellness, especially the specific goals you have identified from your employee assessment.
Step 3 – Drive Action and Engagement: Critical to the success of a corporate financial wellness initiative is its ability to draw employees into the program and drive them to take action—over and over again. Given the diverse nature and skillsets of today’s workforce, learning preferences and motivators vary significantly. This is why a financial wellness program should be personalized and offer users a quality experience across multiple entry points and delivery channels. In addition to web-based platforms, which should be scalable across an entire workforce, human interaction through call centers, workshops and personal consultations should be core elements of an effective financial wellness program.
Step 4 – Evaluate and Evolve: The conventional return-on-investment (ROI) standard of measure, where dollars invested can be directly tied to cost savings, provides only a limited view of a program’s success. A growing number of employers are recognizing that relying strictly on a cost-based ROI to measure a program’s success falls short. Instead, value-of-investment (VOI), which considers both tangible and more-difficult-to-quantify intangible business benefits of financial wellness, may be a better measure.
Workplace financial wellness is the rising tide that lifts all boats: workers benefit from solutions that ease their financial stress, while corporations reap the rewards of a more productive and loyal labor force. That’s why now may be the time to create a financial wellness program for your employees or evolve your program if one already exists.
[i] 2016 Workplace Benefits Report, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, April 2016.
[ii] PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey: 2017 Results, PricewaterhouseCoopers, April 2017.
[iii] 15th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, MetLife, April 2017.
[iv] 2015 Workplace Benefits Report, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, April 2015.
[v] 2016 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing, Aon Hewitt, January 2016.
[vi] 2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing, Aon Hewitt, January 2017.
[vii] Building a Business Case for Your Financial Wellness Program, Guidespark, August 2015.
[viii] Corporate Wellness Services in the U.S., IBISWorld, February 2016.
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